Some notes and observations from the open portion of practice on Monday afternoon as the Vols worked out in full pads on Haslam Practice Field.
Von Pearson update: For your daily Von Pearson update, the senior receiver was back on the practice field on Monday, and was in shoulder pads, albeit in a green, non-contact jersey. It appears that the conditioning day that he got in on Friday, the day that he was cleared, counted as one acclimation day. Saturday (in a helmet) was the second acclimation day and today was his first day in shoulder pads and a helmet. He should get one more of those on Tuesday morning, and could be cleared for full pads by Tuesday night.
He continued to look crisp, making several nice grabs in practice. Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said it was too early to tell much about him, but that he would be competing for a job just like everybody else.
Circle of Life: Butch Jones got practice going again on Monday with the Circle of Life drill. As always, it was difficult to see who won each battle, but perhaps most noteworthy was that Jones made Drew Richmond go against Venzell Boulware four straight times. He didn’t appear to be too pleased with the reps overall, joking that they need to play the “marshmallow song” while those two were going.
A few other notes from that drill, from what I could see:
• Jalen Reeves-Maybin got the best of Quart’e Sapp, but it wasn’t without a fight from Sapp – who appeared to at least stalemate him for awhile, and maybe even drive him a bit before JRM recovered and won the rep. Still, that’s an encouraging sign for the true freshman.
• Defensive end Quay Picou, in his first day in pads, went against Charles Mosley and seemed to hang in well with him. Picou was giving up a lot of weight in that battle, so not bad there.
• Brett Kendrick appeared to win a rep against Coleman Thomas in a battle of two guys looking to crack the offensive line starting group.
• It might be curtains on the Dontavius Blair era. He got run over by Chance Hall, and based on watching offensive line drills over the past week, Blair looks to be fairly buried on the depth chart at this point.
• TE Jakob Johnson had a really strong rep against LB Darrin Kirkland Jr.
Offensive line update: Marcus Jackson missed his second consecutive practice. We’ve been asked by several people if that’s serious, and all we can say is that nothing’s been confirmed to us yet, but there’s certainly some concern about that. Butch Jones won’t speak to the media against until after Tuesday’s practice, so there may not be an official word until then.
I didn’t see Jashon Robertson or Dylan Wiesman at practice either on Monday. Robertson had been battling an illness recently, so perhaps that’s related. I did, however, get a better feel for who is working at what position right now on the offensive line. Of the guys at practice on Monday, Mack Crowder and Ray Raulerson were the two working primarily at center, though Brett Kendrick and Jack Jones got some snaps there too. The tackles were Chance Hall, Dontavius Blair, Drew Richmond, Coleman Thomas and Kyler Kerbyson. The guards were Jack Jones, Austin Sanders, Venzell Boulware, Charles Mosley and Kendrick as well.
If Jackson were to miss significant time, Jack Jones was who I saw getting some first-team rep work on Saturday, so that’s a name to keep in mind going forward.
Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord was asked if he could elaborate on any of the injuries on the offensive line, but all he said was that some guys were banged up and they were moving guys around. DeBord did say that he hopes the newcomers understand the sense of urgency for the newcomers on the offensive line, because a lot of them are getting work with the first and second teams.
Special freshmen?: We see a lot of special teams work in practice, and it can be difficult to get much out of that in terms of a report, but one thing I did notice on Monday was that a lot of true freshmen were getting reps with the kickoff coverage units. The second unit was made up primarily of freshmen, including Austin Smith, Vincent Perry, John Kelly, Quart’e Sapp, Darrin Kirkland Jr. and others. But Jauan Jennings was the only true freshman I saw working with the first kickoff coverage unit, that was comprised of mostly veterans.
That can be viewed as quite a compliment for a player who not only looks good catching the ball, but also can run down the field and make a tackle.
Other absences: Andrew Butcher, Preston Williams, Trevarris Saulsberry, LaTroy Lewis, Jason Croom, Evan Berry, Stephen Griffin and Justin Martin were among the other players (in addition to the O-linemen mentioned earlier) that I didn’t see on the field, at least during the open portion of practice.